Geothermal energy is the ability to store heat and is an efficient way to heat and cool our homes and businesses. In Wisconsin outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons. However, four to six feet below the earth's surface, the temperatures remain relatively moderate and constant all year long. The earth is a huge energy storage device that absorbs 47% of all the solar energy that strikes its surface.
Geothermal systems transfer heat from your homes to the earth in the cooling mode, or from the earth to your home in the heating mode. Water is used as the heat transfer medium through a closed loop piping system buried in the ground. The geothermal unit compresses the extracted heat to a high temperature and delivers it to your home through a normal duct system or radiant heat system. Reverse the process, and the system provides cooling. By using this stable thermal source, geothermal heat pumps provide energy efficient comfort year round with a sealed package unit, without the need for a noisy outdoor fan, or a flue.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) geothermal systems are the, "most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today." Extremely high levels of efficiency are possible because a geothermal heat pump uses only electricity to move heat, not produce it. A geothermal unit typically supplies four to five kilowatts of heat for every kilowatt of electricity used. Three to four of these kilowatts of heat come directly from the earth itself, and are clean, free and renewable.
We are entering the era of peak oil. Production of oil is at its peak; it will never grow larger, as it has in the past. At the same time worldwide demand for oil is growing faster than at any other time in history. As a result prices will continue to rise while supply continues to decrease. The earth is not running out of oil. The reality is that we have reached peak oil production, and while demand continues to rise at record levels, prices will also continue to rise with no end in sight. The price of oil affects the price of all other forms of energy. When it goes up, they do too.
The same holds true for natural gas. We have now reached peak natural gas production in North America, where all the natural gas for the United States is produced. We will never be able to produce more natural gas than today, even if demand rises (which it is doing). With oil, all the oil companies had to do was to build inexpensive oil tankers to ship foreign oil to the U.S. This is not so with natural gas. Sophisticated and expensive ships, with terminals at both the shipping and receiving ports are required for the import of natural gas. This infrastructure is not currently in place in the U.S. It is extremely costly and will take many years to create. Therefore, the cost of natural gas will also continue to rise, with no end in sight.
Now is the time to consider alternate forms of heating and cooling your homes and businesses. Geothermal will produce significantly cheaper utility bills and annual maintenance costs. A system will usually pay for itself within a two to five year time span. Currently there is a tax credit of 30% of the entire installation costs and Focus on Energy cash back rewards available to qualifying homeowners.
Geothermal systems have the lowest impact on the environment when compared to fossil-fueled systems. Now is the time to consider going green and reducing your carbon footprint.
Most geothermal systems also include a hot water generator, which diverts a portion of the supplied heat to the domestic water heater. In fact, heat removed from your home during the cooling cycle is deposited directly to the water heater instead of the ground. This provides a substantial portion of a family's hot water needs at a very low cost. Ground-source heat pumps also can filter air and control humidity.